2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter, Issue 60: Always Start with a Strategic Premise

Kevin Novak
2 min readJun 16, 2022


You’ve developed an aspirational strategic plan that is going to help you crush it compared to your competitors and allow the organization to expand its customer base and be more relevant to existing customers. The direction of the plan and its goals seem to address the declining performance of existing business lines and offerings by developing a new model.

You’ve worked on it, honed it, and vetted it with your executive team and board of directors. On the surface, everyone appears to be supportive. Your communications group has crafted organization-wide messaging to introduce the new strategic direction to customers and the public at large. On a whim, communications shared the message with a few selected customers to be sure the plan is clear, compelling, and actionable.

Then everything fell apart. The feedback received was undebatable. Customers asked so many questions that the communications team was confused, and they didn’t have any answers. When communications shared the feedback with the executive team and board, nearly all these key leaders also became confused. Executive management counted on staff across the organization with the knowledge and experience to raise the red flag if any issues existed. Why weren’t the customers getting it? It all seemed so clear.

To say they were blindsided was an understatement. Everyone involved, including those on the board, believed in their perceptions of what customers want and need. They were shocked when they heard customers didn’t see the value the organization was going to create via this new strategic direction. Where did this all go wrong? What feels “good” and “right” on the surface can be based on faulty premises, which is the case in this scenario.

Foresight is Hindsight

The strategic planning effort lacked the key exercise of creating a strategic premise: defining the context for the plan, vetting scenarios that are tested and validated with accurate data, determining the orientation towards the market, and understanding clearly how the market perceives its relationship with the organization and its expectations about what it wants from the organization. That’s a lot, but it’s an absolutely essential exercise.

Too often strategic plans are set in a vacuum, without context or data, overlooking the reason and the impetus of the “why.” The activity also misses necessary alignment with an organization’s capability and capacity correlated to the market’s true needs and wants…

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Kevin Novak

4X webby winner, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer @2040 Digital (www.2040digital.com), IADAS Member, Speaker, Author, Science Nut

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